Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Books Of The Year # 1: CROSS, by Ken Bruen

We’re always the last to know. Like, couldn’t someone have mentioned, even in passing, that it’s coming up to Christmas? Now here’s us with nary a child in the house washed and no sign of a ‘2007 Round-Up Of Books Wot My Friends Wrote’ compilation to fill a gap. Bah blummin’ humbug, etc. Anyhoo, here’s the first of our Books of the Year – Seamus Smyth on Ken Bruen’s CROSS. To wit:
“Like all gifted writers, Ken Bruen is big on atmosphere. He wallops you with it on page one – not with a character wearing a cross, but with a cross wearing him – and never lets up. And try this for characterisation: “I didn’t enquire how the barman knew my order. I was afraid he’d tell me … You sit behind a pint like that, a pure gift, with the Jameson already weaving its dark magic on your eyes, you can believe that Iraq is indeed on the other side of the world, that winter isn’t coming, that the Galway light will always hold that beautiful fascination and that priests are our protectors, not predators. You won’t have the illusion for very long, but the moment is priceless.” Bruen stalks Galway with the eye of a jackal, scouring the city’s ever-changing cultural and social scene and rancid underbelly, and weaves it into a thought-provoking sleuth yarn which is an indictment on modern-day Ireland. And he’s very visual. You see everything. The ‘half-crouch young people adopt’, the tree in the centre of McSwiggan’s pub reassuring us that the ‘country still has a sense of the absurd’. Bruen adds to the genre a voice that’s as challenging and unsettling as it is original. No genre-writing for this guy. He writes as if he’s sitting over a beer talking to a mate. It’s as subtle a piece of crime-writing as you’re likely to get. Nothing’s forced. It’s a masterclass in pace. Many writers are compared to writers who spawned their own sub-genre. Not Bruen. He’s spawning his own for others to aspire to. How many of us can claim that?”- Seamus Smyth
Seamus Smyth is the author of QUINN.

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